cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Yeah, I was a pretty clever kid (aka “smart ass”). When my parents asked me what I wanted for a holiday gift, my cunning plan was to aim for more than one present– go for volume!– so my standard equest was “A big box full of a whole lot of little toys.” Had there been twitter then, I might have posted

And because they were who they were, my parents provided.

Fast forward about 40 years.

When I returned home to Arizona two weeks ago, in my mailbox was one of those slips for something to pick up at the post office. I left laying on my table of Stuff to Organize. Yesterday I went down to Pine and found this mystery package:

It looked like it had a bit of a rough journey, but seeing a return address from Germany, I knew right away that it was a holiday gift from the family who owned the camera they lost in Toronto, found by friends GNA and Giulia, and returned to them via a bit of detective work.

Indeed it was, a big box full of not little toys, but edible goodies:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Such a nice note in a hand made card

Dear Alan,

My family and I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

What you have done for us — without knowing us personally — is our own Christmas story. We do appreciate this so much. Thank you so much!

It matters not that I am diabetic and most of the items I will give to friends (the tea set is lovely). It matters not that the bottle of wine broke, hence why the card and wrapping paper showed signs of being a bit saturated and dried out:

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Look at this reminder I have of this entire experience

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I am not writing this to tell you how awesome I am– I celebrate this moment of connectivenss that the internet and the web enabled.

Had Giulia and GNA turned in the camera to lost and found, they family still would have gotten their camera. But with this more interesting route, and story — well, it is one but tiny, but key stitches in the fabric of this thing called the web. It’s the kind of Amazing True Stories I firmly believe happen to a much greater extent then the Internet Fear Stories.

But it’s not newsworthy when someone does a stranger a favor on the internet.

In light of people worrying about the web we lost:

When you see interesting data mash-ups today, they are often still using Flickr photos because Instagram’s meager metadata sucks, and the app is only reluctantly on the web at all. We get excuses about why we can’t search for old tweets or our own relevant Facebook content, though we got more comprehensive results from a Technorati search that was cobbled together on the feeble software platforms of its era. We get bullshit turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.

We’ll fix these things; I don’t worry about that. The technology industry, like all industries, follows cycles, and the pendulum is swinging back to the broad, empowering philosophies that underpinned the early social web. But we’re going to face a big challenge with re-educating a billion people about what the web means, akin to the years we spent as everyone moved off of AOL a decade ago, teaching them that there was so much more to the experience of the Internet than what they know.

That web is not lost. It is still here. There is a clear message of the web. I inhabit and weave it daily. I add to it. Openly. Freely.

The answer is not in “fixes” its in changing out behavior. It’s not always opting in to the easy app way out, or the fallacy bullshit surrender of “everybody is in facebook”.

I am not suggesting anyone give up their gardens, they app toys. I use mine.

But tend to the web. Be OF the web not just ON the web. That is not a phrase, that means act in the manner that the original web design laid out. I connect my stuff to you, you connect to me. I let others see/share mys stuff. C’mon, this is stuff we forgot from kindergarten.

Get a blog. Get a domain. Get your own digital space. Make your own home. Throw open parties. Invite others. Spend time sharing in other people’s homes. Listen to Scott’s call to save open content.

And above all, get yer butt over to ds106 and make some freakin’ art.

If we “lose the web”, its not the fault of any entity, it is on us.

Check with Pogo.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. Alan, Thanks for providing just about the only happy ending in this week of terrors. i had lost the thread of the lost camera, and it is satisfying to hear it found home, at last. All who wander are not lost. Your call to collaborate on the open web answers a question I had when I woke up this morning about whether or not to have my poetry writing students blog next term. Your inspiring blog post tells me yes, they will!

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